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The Greatest Challenge For LGBT Muslims Lies Within

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Recently, news surfaced that Saudi Arabia was mulling over executing LGBT persons who come out online. This should not be surprising given the fate of prisoners of conscience like Hamza Kashgari, Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair.

It would also not be surprising if predominant Muslim organizations in North America and Europe sidelined this concern. Indeed, given pressing concerns on anti-Muslim bigotry and maintaining internal community order, the concerns of LGBT Muslim youth are swiftly addressed by the one-size-fits-all cliché, "test and trial."

However, as draconian as these punishments may seem, many LGBT Muslims have the privilege to conceal their identity, a saving tactic not often available to religious minorities like Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

The greatest challenge to LGBT Muslims does not often stem from the corrupt state or the regressive clergy but rather from their own families and more so from their own selves. After all, statements by power-hungry clerics of a particular sect do not necessarily prevent other Muslims from being true to their beliefs and practices.

Likewise, many LGBT Muslims do not necessarily care for the opinions of contemporary exclusivists, who view constitutional orientation as superfluous desire and explain the existence of gay Muslims through the outdated model of ubna (passive homosexuality due anal itch).

However, Muslims from minority denominations that include Shias, Ismailis and Ahmadis often receive family support through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the same does not necessarily hold true for LGBT Muslims. This entails the importance of LGBT-affirming Islamic hermeneutics that would allow parents to unconditionally accept their LGBT offspring.

Such hermeneutics is also essential for change in the Muslim world, as it would help address any faith based reservations of otherwise well meaning Muslim psychologists and counselors.

An LGBT-affirming hermeneutic may be essential for LGBT Muslims experiencing strong cognitive dissonance between faith and sexuality. Yet, many do not necessarily fall back to jurisprudential laws when it comes to their societal conduct and sexual mores.

Indeed, the greatest challenge to LGBT Muslims comes from within rather than outside sources. No amount of jurisprudential affirmation can help if LGBT Muslims choose not to accept themselves due to severely low self-esteem caused by subcultural expectations relating to body image, skin colour and mannerisms.

Where New York-based Omar Sarwar has adequately captured the concerns of internalized racism, Lahore-based Hadi Hussain has effectively highlighted the concerns of body image. As such, while LGBT Muslims vehemently reject societal expectations, they end up conforming to hollow subcultural expectations.

The proliferation of self-images in various shades of nudity and self-importance and the over-emphasis on the exterior flesh over important values may all be masks for an extremely low self-esteem.

More significantly, although some LGBT Muslims overtly display piety, they often don't realize that they are stringing along those with vulnerable hearts -- a sign of self-importance and a morality gone awry.

The Qur'an teaches that Allah does not change the condition of a people if they do not work towards change.

It should therefore not be surprising when many educated and good-looking LGBT Muslims claim that true love is difficult to find. How can they find it when a vast majority is obsessed with the self and has not learned to genuinely care for the other?

All of this does not mean that the alternatives of sham marriages or permanent celibacy are panaceas to the situation at hand. Although it is also true that many LGBT Muslims do end up in marriages of convenience or, despite their best intentions, end up being alone due to subcultural expectations that harshly judge the physically average as "inferior."

The Qur'an teaches that Allah does not change the condition of a people if they do not work towards change. This entails replacing corrosive subcultural expectations with the beautiful values of dard mandi (empathy) and bey laus mohabbat (unconditional love) that sees beyond physical form, colour and attribute.

This will not be an easy task. It may be even more difficult than going against the contemporary Muslim position on homosexuality. However, if anything, the Prophet (upon whom be peace) inspired hope when he taught Muslims to plant a tree even if the world came to an end.

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